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User Centric Computing and Software Licensing: The Case for Consolidation

March 27, 2012

Dividing today’s data center into distinct layers, such as server, OS, application, and enduser, is a direct outgrowth of the virtualization trend. Administrators have achieved greater workplace productivity by addressing each layer individually, according to a recent blog post by Flexera Software.

In these terms, user centric computing is the newest approach that promises to provide greater end user flexibility and workplace productivity. Essentially, user centric approach captures everything a person does on a desktop. Then, once the user logs off, the person can log back in to a newly refreshed desktop image and have everything still in place from previous sessions.

This same, newly refreshed image appears whether the person is using the same desktop with, for example, Windows 2000 or whether the person has just accessed a new desktop using Windows 7 or some other operating system. That is, all the user’s personal preferences, applications and settings are now accessible via a different machine. This is essentially a form of “profile management” which was a common feature in Windows-based systems. Enterprise IT benefits by being able to secure and manage all these users and their environments through a centralized system.

However, profile management fails to adequately deal with the complexity of desktop/user personalization which involves not only policy management and application licensing, but crossplatform issues as well. For many companies who use, or are considering, user centric computing, the area of software licensing is significant because it has huge financial ramifications.

If a company’s current software licensing approach is tied to a certain desktop or device, this approach has to change since, by definition, user-centric computing un-tethers users from their devices. If a company uses some form of concurrent licensing, that too needs to evolve to account for off-network use of applications as well as situations where the same user utilizes an application from multiple devices, such as the desktop, smartphone, or iPad.

In either case, licensing metrics and approaches should align with users of the application rather than devices or instances of that particular application.  Licensing costs and pricing are an issue because software manufacturers are still in the process of coming up with a workable model that will fairly distribute costs and offer good compensation. For companies, user-centric computing is less expensive to support since administrators no longer have to deal with multiple unique machines to update and manage. Eventually, software publishers will need to provide tools that help them administer entitlements and licenses in a consolidated fashion across all their products and eventually, across multiple publishers.

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin
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